Tag Archive | oltre mare

July 27, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili, Miriam, Nadine

Game night was moved to Tuesday night at 7:30 owing to a conflict. And it’s summer, so attendance is bound to be down.

In the Shadow of the Emperor

Jon 25, Gili 21, Miriam 18

My estimation of this game shrank a little, though I still enjoyed it. I really don’t like game mechanics that put person A in a position of deciding to give a bonus to either persons B or C, where person A doesn’t even get anything for doing so. Ugh.

I would say that this is what happens in this game with three players, but the truth is that it happened with four players, too. Maybe the game only shines with five players? Being both an election and an area control game, this is probable.

One other thing to note about this game is that, like Greed Incorporated, how you actually get victory points seems non-intuitive. It’s not holding the electoral seats, but gaining the electoral seats that gives you points. Which means, it’s best to lose control and regain an area every round, rather than simply keep it. Which makes little sense.

Otherwise, victory points are sparse and hidden within all of the other mechanics of the game. That’s not necessarily bad, but it is, as I said, non-intuitive.

In our game, I did well in the beginning and then slid a little as the game went on. It appears that it is better to do better in the beginning of the game, rather than at the end, as it is worth slightly more points. Also a rather odd feature in a game.


Jon/Gili 60, Nadine/Miriam 40

Miriam had time for one hand. They had nearly all of the good cards: Nadine had a bomb of queens, and Miriam had a full house of aces over kings, as well as the phoenix. Miriam went out first, but Nadine found herself left with a 9 and the Dog, which was not ideal.

Oltre Mare

Jon 107, Nadine 90something, Gili 70something

Nadine asked to try this again, and then complained at the beginning that it was too complicated, and then admitted at the end that it was good but too complicated. She is not good at games where a single choice of cards determines a number of different consequences; on the other hand, that’s also the story with El Grande, at which she generally wins. So I don’t know.

I don’t like the trading mechanic, where other players get a bonus for trading on your turn. First of all, it’s another kingmaker mechanic. Second, it discourages people from trading on their own turn.

I also didn’t like the end mechanic, where one player ends the game and the game continues until all players have had an equal number of turns. I don’t like it because many times you plan on one turn for the next turn, and it is not fair for some people to know that the game has ended when they take their last turn, while others don’t. To solve this, I had the game go around one more time after the game ending condition. This worked very well.

In our game, we all started off in close proximity on the board, which was a little unfair for Gili who was in the middle. Nadine was getting points from playing only one card a turn but having the “X-3” chip, which is not ultimately as powerful as simply playing more cards each turn. All of the chips are worth about 2-3 points, but the gold symbol one is the most reliable.

I’m still not decided on the idea of buying cards. Obviously you have to buy or get cards when you are required to play a certain number. But how often do they return their purchase cost, I wonder?

Still an interesting game.

June 30, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine, Elijah, Maxim, Sergey, Alona, Miriam

Maxim and Sergey return after a long absence due to conflicts, and they brought Alona with them. I guess Alona has played games with them before.

Game night was very chaotic, partly because everyone was trying to learn new games all at once, and partly because Nadine was trying to both teach one game and learn another at the same time, something which I should have stopped much earlier.

Oltre Mare

Elijah+, Nadine, Gili, Jon

We picked this to learn. I had never even read the rules, but it was simple enough to read them out loud and go through a sample turn.

OM is an expanded version of Bohnanza; that’s all I could think the whole way through the game. They’re not really identical in mechanics, but trading away cards you don’t want to get what you do, and then planting them in sequenced groups, is the core of both games, and so it naturally leads to that conclusion.

Oltre Mare has more to it. Each round, you have to play a certain number of cards and gain the value of these cards. It’s just that each time you play, you determine not only this turn’s results, but the points you get based on the order you discard them, what you played last time, and will play next time, as well as your hand limit at the beginning of your next turn and the exact number of cards you are required to play next turn. Since the cards are designed to ensure that you can’t generally get the best of all worlds on each play, you simply have to decide where to compromise each round. This is not that big of a deal, because, owing to the trading that happens on every players’ turn, you can often make up for the compromise by the time it gets back to you again.

I thought it was a lovely game, with a few caveats. One is the mechanic that gives you a trade chip each time you trade with someone else on their turn. The player with the most trade chips at the middle and end of the games gains 6 points. Since this is entirely dependent on other players’ whims, I dislike it. It’s an unnecessary mechanic, anyway, since you already have incentives for trading. It’s not too much of a deal, however.

What’s bad is the trade rules. Each card has a “type”, as well as symbols that indicate the types of actions you get when you play the cards, and the hand limit and number of cards you must play if the card ends up on top of your played stack. And the rules clearly say that you must tell the other players what types of cards you are trading them but may LIE about the other symbols.

As a Eurogamer, that mechanics simply turns me off, entirely. Some people may like it, war gamers mostly, and that’s fine for them. In our game, we simply didn’t bother to mention anything else on the card, trading entirely by card type.

One additional mechanic which I really dislike is the same one which annoyed me in a few other games, and it’s the combination of a) a variable game ending trigger, and b) that the player to the right of the starting player always gets the last turn. This mechanic entirely screws the player who goes first, who typically has no control over when the game will end and is therefore typically caught entirely sunk after he has invested resources for his next turn, only to suddenly find that he has no next turn. Which is exactly what happened to me in this game, but I will point out that I objected to the mechanic already when the game started, entirely for this reason.

Other than these issues, the rest of the game is simple and should, in theory, be relatively quick. Our game wasn’t, because of the chaos I mentioned above. And, strangely, Nadine came close to winning, despite not really paying attention and having an 11 card run in her stack of which she could use only 5. I didn’t pay close enough attention to the final scores and how they came about to see how that happened.

Nadine writes: I thought the ships and ship tokens would be more relevant than they were, and they’re about equal including the pirate blocker. It’s different from other games, you’re actions are very constrained so you have to plan within that which is hard. I was sure I had started off with 3 torahs, but I guess I hadn’t. Even with the other game, I could have remembered that if I had concentrated.


Sergey+, Maxim, Alona, Miriam

Nadine taught this to Sergey, Maxim, and Alona, and continued to teach them throughout their game. Miriam had played twice before, but she was still somewhat shaky on the rules. I think they all basically enjoyed it.

Nadine writes: Near the end I noticed that the money was an obligatory condition, but I said they could decide to play without it, I think it hurt Miriam but I’m not sure.


Elijah/Gili 95, Jon/Nadine 5

We played one hand of this, and both Elijah and Gili were the less experienced players, as you can tell from our final scores.

Pillars of the Earth

Jon 45, Miriam, Maxim

Unfortunately, the people who played this game last time had not separated the expansion cards from the main set, and there are no distinguishing marks or reference sheets that enables one to distinguish between the original cards and those of the expansion. I made a reasonable guess for nearly all the cards, excepting one of two character cards, one of which showed up during play and I didn’t understand its special ability at the time. We managed to muddle through.

First play for each of them. I taught them very straightforward and they picked it up nearly immediately, with only some confusion as to the difference between placing the workers and placing the master builders. I also showed them the later craftsman cards early on so they would have an idea what to look for as the game went on.

They both enjoyed the game. Maxim had been hoping to try Stone Age as an alternative to Caylus which he thinks is too long (as do I), but I was glad to play this instead (Gili owns Stone Age, but she didn’t bring it).

Notre Dame

Nadine 53, Sergey 46, Gili 46, Alona 45, Elijah 35

Nadine writes: Only Gili and I had played before. Sergey started out strong with a lot of points from cars, and money but then couldn’t keep it up. After two rounds the scores were close, 28 and 29 for 4, 25 for 1 person.